Los Patos De Las Arboles

The fishing in El Golfo out from Mazatlan was terrific and a Fall trip yielded Dorado, Sail Fish and a White Marlin, but the truly memorable event was the most unusual Duck hunt I had ever been on. I had been hunting ducks for over 25 years, sneaking stock tanks, decoying them in flooded rice fields and timber, pass shooting and shooting them over Goose spreads, but I never imagined a hunt like this one.

Norman Shelter, a Houston friend of mine, and I were standing on the bank of a tidal lagoon north of Mazatlan, as our guide and his two helpers loaded our guns and shells into 2 flat bottomed, aluminum boats with no visible means of propulsion. Across the lagoon, probably 600 yards away was our objective, where we could see Ducks coming in, some landing on the water and some landing in the trees! Hard to sneak up on!

Our guide told us to each to get into a boat and his helpers started pushing us into the lagoon. More instructions from the guide, “Load your guns and lay down in the bottom of the boat and be still and they will push both of you into shooting range and the rest is up to you.” Our helpers didn’t “habla Englais”, but each got behind the boat and hid his head behind the gunnel and started pushing.

Soon we were across the lagoon and both of us raised up and commenced firing at the Ducks getting up off the water and the ones coming out of the trees. Ducks flushed wildly as we reloaded and shot some more. The Ducks then circled and flew right back over us and we unloaded on them again, which chased them off for good.

As one helper retrieved the Ducks the other held the boat and soon we were looking a very different kind of Duck. Long neck and web feet, with toe nail like things on each foot. A beige breast, black back and a white stripe down the side led to our tentative identification, Fluvous Tree Ducks, Fulvous Whistling Ducks or Mexican Squealers, but officially they are, Dendrocygna Bicolor. We took 4 home for supper and gave the rest to the helpers along with a generous tip to which they replied, almost in unison, “Muchas gracias, Jefe!”

Norman and I were a sight when we strolled through the lobby of the El Cid Hotel, muddy, wet and carrying the Ducks. We weren’t sure if the Chef would cook them for us, but later at supper, the Duck L’Orange, which we never expected in Mazatlan, was a fitting close to a different kind of Duck hunt.

Sailfish In Mazatlan Harbor

My second or third trip to Mazatlan yeilded this picture of a Sail clearing the water inside the harbor. Looking closely you can see the mainland in the background on the east side of harbor. The left, or west side, is dominated by a mountain that reminded me of Gibraltar.


On this trip the Captain put the lines out when we were about 600 yards away from the dock. The fish hit almost immediately and put on quite an aerial display, making 5 or 6 jumps and “greyhounding” for almost 100 yards.

The Sailfish on the wall of my den in Paradise Valley, Az.

The Sail weighed 110 pounds and was 97 inches long. I had it mounted, but sadly it was destroyed in 1983 when a tornado in north Houston, hit the storage shed where it was stored. A trailer park was right next to the shed and it was completely destroyed killing 2 people.


We took a trip to Mazatlan with the Schindler family and one event stood out.

A long fishing trip with no fish and four hours into our trip the Captain was fretting (in Spanish) about our lack of luck. We had seen some Sail Fish lolling about on the surface, but they weren’t interested in our baits regardless how skillfully we presented them.

Our trolling continued, four lines out on outriggers, and one by one, everyone in our party, 2 adults and 6 kids, started getting Mal-De-Mer, or seasick. It seems when one person gets it, it become contagious and spreads quickly. Taking turns, “chumming” for fish, Jack and I told the Captain to head back in, easily a one and one-half hour trip and as the boat came about to head back to Mazatlan, one of the four outriggers snapped, then a second, then a third and quickly, the fourth. The infirmed anglers quickly recovered, grabbed rods and the fight was on.

We had run into a school of Dorado, Dolphin, not Flipper, and the water behind the boat was churned up with the acrobatic fish. These were large Dorado, at least 25 pounds each, and on the medium tackle we were using, put up a great fight. As the fish wore down, the mate had his hands full getting them aboard, but he finally put the last one in the ice box.

Everyone was “up” for about 2 minutes, then the Mal-De-Mer hit again. We didn’t get a strike all the way in, but we kept “chumming”!

Home Improvement #2

Our pair of Barn Swallows have succeeded!

About a week ago Layla and I noticed a very small head peeking over the side of the recently constructed nest. A couple of days later I noticed a second small head and finally this morning I was able to get a picture, not very clear of both young birds. You have to look close.

Rocky Point – The Seagoing Tractor

The funniest thing I have ever seen fishing, or around a fishing camp, occurred at Rocky Point. My first time to fish down there, early in the morning, we, Jim Buck and I, launched the Skip Jack off of the launch ramp like anywhere else. The proprietor of the camp told us in broken English that in afternoon when we returned the tide would be out, but don’t worry, just be sure to call him on the ship to shore radio and let him know when we would be back.

We fished hard and caught some nice fish, and while returning to the camp, called the proprietor as instructed. In broken English, he replied, “Beeg, wide Texas boat? OK, we get jur trailer and be ready for ju.” Breaking the connection, I asked Jim, “Get our trailer. What’s going on.” “Quien Sabe?” he replied in broken Spanish.

Nearing shore, I thought I was seeing things, there was a John Deere tractor coming our way. The closer we got to it, the more strange it looked. A tractor body, diesel engine and all, built up on fifteen foot extensions, with wheels below the extensions rolling on the sandy bottom and the drive shaft pointing down to the rear wheels at a forty five degree angle and out comes the contraption to tow us into the ramp area which is all on dry land now since the tide is out. Our trailer is waiting for us two hundred yards out from the launch ramp, hooked up to another tractor/contraption, rear wheels into the water just below the bearing buddies and a Mexican boy standing on the rear of the trailer, dwarfed by the strange looking vehicle pulling our trailer.

We secured a rope to our John Deere and it chugged up to our trailer, we untied from it, threw the line to the boy on the back of the trailer, he pulled us up to our winch and hooked us to the winch and the second tractor/contraption, we never found out the brand, which didn’t have a body on it, just engine, chugged us back up to the launch ramp and on to our car. We hopped out of the boat, backed the car up to the trailer and hooked up.

Walking up to the proprietor, I asked him, “How much?” “Two dollar,” he replied. I would have paid ten for that show.

Driving back to our campground I remarked to Jim, “I wonder how they figured those tractor contraptions out.” “Quien sabe,” he replied in broken Spanish.

There is more than one way to skin a cat.

El Shrimp Bucket

Being a good Texas boy, my only exposure to Mexico had been to the sleezy border towns and now, in 1971, to see the budding metropolis of Mazatlan, its traffic, 500,000 inhabitants, beautiful harbor and recent awakening to Gringo tourists, was a real eye opener.

My first trip’s accommodations were at the Playa Mazatlan, the “primo” spot in town. Right on the beach, clean rooms, but no air conditioning and once you got past the night sounds of Mexico, music, horns, laughter and the roaring surf, you slept like a log.

Sleeping in the first morning “south of the border”, getting up and renting a “Yeep”, a Volkswagen Monster, we headed south from the Playa Mazatlan to the harbor to set up a fishing trip. On the way to the harbor, on the left, as we rounded a long curve, there, on the corner of the first floor of a multi story building, was “El shrimp Bucket”. “I’ve got to stop there,” I shouted as I did a “uwey” and parked right in front.

There was a big patio inside the building, like the atriums we have now in our prime office spaces, and to the left was “El Shrimp Bucket”. Little did I know that the patio was part of the restaurant, but 12 years later I would witness a very strange display in that very patio, which is, as they say, another story.

Entering and picking a booth with an ocean view, I checked the menu. A bucket of shrimp for $4.95US and since it was 10:45 AM, why not have lunch. Lunch was served and mine was a full bucket of fried shrimp, not as good as Christie’s in Houston, but probably the second best. Fried onion rings and Guacamole was served separately, and washed down with Margaritas, this was a feast!

As we were leaving, I noticed a picture of John Wayne hanging over the door and he had signed the picture, as best I remember, “Best shrimp ever! Duke”.

El Shrimp Bucket became my headquarters in Mazatlan, but I never saw “Duke” there.


During the summer of 1971, all of our new friends in Phoenix were excited about Mazatlan, Mexico. At the time a quaint old town (now over 1,000,000 inhabitants) located on the mainland directly across the mouth El Golfo from Cabo San Lucas. Their excitement was because you could catch the Ferrocarril Del Norte (Iron Horse Of The North), ie Train, in Nogales, Mexico, right across the border from Nogales, Arizona. Then a 12 hour, plus or minus, overnight trip deposited the travellers in Mazatlan. Shopping and partying were the “sports” of most, but for me it was the fishing.

At the time, the only charter service was Bill Heimpel Star Fleet, or Flota Mazatlan. They had 26 to 32 foot cabin boats as shown in the background of the photograph. The boats were seaworthy and reliable, the Captains put you on the fish, with only one drawback, you had to keep all fish caught. Those not claimed, including the Sailfish, were given or sold to the locals. My last visit in 1983 was almost all catch and release.

My first trip out with Flota Mazatlan resulted in probably 15 Sails raised, 7 landed and 5 returned to the dock. The Picture shows two of them. I have caught Sails, Dolphin (not Flipper), White Marlin and raised a large Blue Marlin and lost it. I was on a boat that landed a 150 pound Blue. I made 8 trips down and always wanted to try the “small fishing”, but the excellent fare offshore and the fantastic hunting available lured me away.

More to come on Mazatlan!

Rocky Point – Saint John’s Bay

On one excursion to Rocky Point, several of the locals asked me to accompany them to “The Cut”, a two hundred foot wide, cut and channel leading from El Golfo into a small bay, St John’s Bay. The trip was ten miles down the beach, not hard packed sand like along the Texas coast, but fine volcanic sand, which refused to pack. It is a ten mile trip from Hell, four wheel drive all the way. Tires deflated to eight, yes eight pounds each! Skeletons of disabled trucks littered the beach. If you broke down, chances were the truck just stayed, rusted out and sank into the sand.

But once at the cut, when the tide started moving, casting a Mr. Champ spoon with a small sardinero, hooked through the mouth, and jigged slowly along the bottom, the action was terrific! There I caught my first and only Bonefish along with several nice Snook. We loaded up on two to three pound, Corvina, a fish resembling our Gulf Coast White Trout, but this Trout grows to a size of up to fifty pounds!

It is a very enjoyable, exciting experience to make a suspense filled trip to a remote fishing spot, hammer the fish and then come back out, in the dark, engines roaring, sand flying and finally making it back to civilization in one piece.

I made a total of 4 trips to the cut!


Rocky Point

By the spring of 1972, I had found a new salt water fishing paradise, “South of the Border, Down Mexico Way”. The upper end of El Golfo, the Gulf of California, is the final destination of the western Colorado River. The same river that roars through the Grand Canyon, meekly trickles into the top end of El Golfo at San Felipe, Mexico. Sixty miles southeast of San Felipe is Puerto Penasco (a tilde should be over the “N”), or Rocky Point as the local Arizonans call it.

Yes, local Arizonans. At the time, around 200 families had established an American colony there centered around fishing and relaxing. The beach houses were minimum standard, but sufficient for occasional use by their lessors. At the time, Gringos couldn’t own property in Mexico. The two best facilities at Rocky Point were the boat storage area, patrolled by the local police and fenced with concertina wire around the top, and the boat launching equipment.

My boat, at the time, was an eighteen foot, Falcon Skip Jack, tri hull, with two, sixty horsepower Johnson outboards and two internal, twenty four gallon gas tanks. Loaded out it would cruise at twenty-five miles per hour and had a range of fifty miles. We caught some very nice fish, Sea Bass, Grouper, Corvina, Snook, Bonefish and Queen Trigger Fish. I won a category of a tournament there in 1973 with a ten pound Trigger Fish. We once saw and came within twenty feet of a fifty foot whale!

An unusual feature of Rocky Point is the extreme tidal fluctuations caused by its location at the top of El Golfo, which is several hundred miles long and for a large body of water, very narrow, fifty to a hundred miles wide. Tidal pressure going in and out causes wide fluctuations at Rocky Point. I was told the Bay of Fundy, in Nova Scotia, is the only spot in the world with greater tidal fluctuation.

More coming up on Rocky Point.

Law West Of The Pecos

You have met my Great Uncle, Lee Wallace, and read some of his humorous stories. Recently, I enjoyed a family reunion with the fine family of his wife, Winnie. Lee had no children and his estate was left to Winnie and her son George. George, a WW II veteran, has passed away, but his wife, Virginia Hearne, along with their 3 children and spouses and 6 Grand Children attended the event. It was held “way up” the Guadalupe River, in the heart of our state’s beautiful, hill country at Lee and Winnie’s Lodge.

Virginia had my attention telling me some stories about Lee, when someone mentioned, how about his trip to Pecos, Texas? Never missing a beat, she passed on to me the following story about Lee’s younger days.

Here’s a picture of Lee Wallace (circa 1900) in his buggy. I’m sure the following trip was made with a larger wagon and a team of horses.

Around the turn of the 20th Century, Lee, County Attorney of Kerr County, Texas and another lawyer, decided they would go and visit one of Lee’s friends in Langtry, Texas, probably a 150 to 200 mile trip. Remember, no interstates and very few cars then and their chosen mode of transportation was a team of horses, pulling their wagon.
A car trip from Kerrville to Langtry, even with our modern highways, is not easy today and in the early 1900’s, had to be a nightmare. To bolster their courage, along with their pistols, they took 2 cases of whiskey, one for their trip and one for Lee’s friend. Wouldn’t you know it, their wagon broke an axle near Rockspring, Texas, and their 3 to 4 day trip turned into a week.

They finally arrived in Langtry, with the whiskey gone, and no “gift” for Lee’s friend. However, his friend’s court was in session, the bar was closed, and they witnessed the strange brand of justice practiced by Judge Roy Bean!

The complaint was by an Anglo rancher that one of his horses was stolen. Judge Bean brought out a Mexican man that was already in jail and said he must have done it. The jury found Mexican guilty and Judge Bean sent him back to jail for a longer term or a hanging (Lee never said). With the swift sentence, the bar quickly opened and warm greetings were exchanged.

After several days, with Lee’s visit and business completed, he and his fellow traveler loaded up for home. To bolster their courage for the grueling trip, Judge Bean presented them with two more cases of whiskey. Four days later, minus the whiskey, they arrived safely in Kerrville.

Back then, you had to be careful of the water you drank!